We are sending a big virtual HIGH FIVE to all of the parents and kiddos who are navigating this crazy, weird, and confusing time of social distancing due to COVID-19. In an effort to provide a little bit of support during this odd time we've scheduled a range of digital content that we hope will help everyone as we venture into this new world of distance learning and homeschooling.
Snack Time Science
At Home STEM Activities
Math Coloring Sheets
Equation coloring sheets are a fun and creative way for kids to not only practice their arithmetic but also practice basic coding. There are a ton of free downloadable sheets online. We'd suggest that you Google your child's grade level along with "math coloring sheet" and then pick the ones that will appeal most to your kiddos.
Measurement Hunt. Have kids start by creating a table of measurements starting at 1/2 inches and going up to 12 inches in 1/2 inch measurements (you could also supplement for different units of measurement). Then ask kids to use their ruler to find and record items that match each unit of measurement on their sheet.
Shape Hunt. Ask your kiddos to draw 5 or more shapes on a piece of paper and label them accordingly. Then ask kids to use their papers to find 3-5 items around the house that fit the categories for each shape.
Ask your kids to use popsicle sticks and playdough to build 3-5 different shapes, including a circle!
Everyone has different items stocked at the moment (straws, toothpicks, cardboard strips, etc.), so you may have to get creative with the supplies that you have on hand.
Tangrams and Puzzles
Use some of those extra cardboard boxes to create tangrams and puzzles. Print a tangram puzzle template and have kids use it to create their own cardboard pieces. Kids can paint, color, or even glitter their pieces. Once puzzle pieces are complete search for different tangram challenges for your kids to complete.
Kids can use this template (there are tons available online if you want more or less pieces) to create their own puzzles. Ask kids to identify and compare the best ways to make durable pieces. Is tracing a good option? Could they paste a paper sheet onto another material? Your kids can independently design, cut and engineer their puzzles.
Writing, Drawing, and How Things Work
Our kids are constantly asking us how things are made, which is the inspiration behind this fun project that works for children that can write and/or draw independently! Have your child pick a fun, everyday item (anything from pasta to crayons) and find a video that explains how it's manufactured. The TV show of the same name (How It's Made) has covered a huge range of items and many of the segments are available for free on YouTube, while How It's Made: Food and Unwrapped are great for edible items. Before your child watches, ask them to pay special attention to all the steps it takes to make the thing they've chosen, and the order in which those steps happen. When they're done, have them outline those steps via writing, drawing, or both (one of our kids made a comic; an illustrated story would also be a great option)! Not only will your child be learning about the complex science and manufacturing process behind everyday items, they'll also be translating that process into words and images and thinking carefully about scientific and written sequences. After all, if things are out of order in both science and stories, they often won't work!
Math in Words
In addition to having your kids practice well-known (and often not well-loved) word problems, make it fun by giving them the opportunity to write their own for you or an older sibling to do as homework! There's nothing required here besides having an example on hand (googling your child's grade level and "math word problems" will result in a plethora of worksheets and options), and do let them come up with anything they want as long as it's based on items and mathematic principles that exist here on earth (we've been trapped before by the very strange way math works on the made-up planet Naroosa lol). Word problems are a great way to make math real by showing how we use it in almost everything we make and do as humans. And your kids will be getting extra writing practice in too!
Even the New York Times wants you to write about STEM
The New York Times recently sponsored a STEM writing contest, asking students to "choose an issue or question in science, technology, engineering, math or health that interests them" and "then write a 500-word explanation that will engage and enlighten readers." Although the contest is now closed, the exercise is still totally worth it, especially for middle schoolers and up (younger ones can do this too, but use the story/comic book idea outlined above!). Be sure to visit the contest announcement, which includes lots of examples and the three basic components behind a thoughtful and engaging piece. This is a great opportunity to do some interesting and engaging research and improve on science writing skills that will undoubtedly apply across all sorts of written activities.
Make a Density Dunk Tank
Replicate the density dunk tank we made in Snack Time Science this week! All you'll need is a container of water - from a small vase like the one we used to a bath tub! - and pairs of items of a similar size to dunk. For example, a rock and a ball of tinfoil that are the same size, similarly-sized fruit or veggies, little erasers or gadgets like the ones in the video - these will all work. Ask your child to hypothesize whether the item will sink or float, then toss them in! The ones with a higher density (more molecules than the water) will sink, those with a lower density (less molecules than the water) will float. If you're using a big vessel like a tub, try a can of Coke and Diet Coke. In each case, one will sink, and the other will float! Hint hint - it all has to do with the size of the sugar molecule used to sweeten the soda (corn syrup v. aspartame).
Play Around with Sound
Continue investigating the science of sound, which we began last week when we made harmonicas on Rosie Makes (view the video here). Ask your kids whether they think sound moves and what evidence from the video supports that hypothesis. Then test that hypothesis again by making salt dance! This project from Kiwi Crate is super fun and requires minimal materials: salt, popsicle sticks, tape, plastic wrap, a portable speaker, and food coloring (optional). View the full list of instructions on the Kiwi Crate site.
Navigate Nature's Colors
Since we're all eating at home, food scraps abound. How about turning them into natural dyes? There are so many opportunities to make hypotheses here. For the little ones, have them predict what colors each food scrap will make. Older kids can hypothesize about the time it will take for each dye to become saturated or what fabrics/items will absorb the dye the best. You can even use it to make tie-dye t-shirts or dye Easter eggs (for the latter, just add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the dye)! The instructions for making natural dye are at Popsugar.
Bubble in a Bubble in a Bubble
In Snack Time Science, our Executive Director Brittany demonstrated how to use a pipette to make a dome bubble on a flat surface. If you have a pipette on hand, give this awesome experiment a try! You'll make some super-powered bubble solution using water, dish soap, and sugar in order to blow bubbles into bubbles until you have an enormous multi-layered creation!
Bubbles on the Brain: a Circle or a Square?
Think bubbles can only be round? Or maybe your kids just want to keep building and experimenting with different kinds of bubble wands? Either way, check out this Steve Spangler Science experiment that explores how to make a square bubble using only scissors, pipe cleaners, and straws! The concept of surface tension plays a big role here too, so make sure you're thinking about it as you build and create!
Question, Research, Repeat As Needed
Our Rosie Makes episode this week focused on building bubble wands using the scientific method, and we included a super cool printable that your kids can use to guide them through any kind of scientific inquiry. So let them tell you what they'd like to explore and go for it! If they have trouble coming up with an idea, check out these projects for inspiration: Little Bins for Little Hands has lots of cool (pun intended) ideas for using the scientific method to explore ice (what melts it fastest v. how to keep it from melting) and KiwiCo will appeal to their love for all things icky in this fun experiment that explores the impact of sugar on teeth (Note: the tooth fairy will need to "lend" you some baby teeth for this one lol).
Art in Motion
Exchange your kids' paintbrushes for a pendulum in this awesome activitythat combines art and science to learn about gravity and Newton's first law of motion (inertia). Caveat: this is pretty high on the messy scale, so you might want to head outside (a recipe for washable sidewalk paint to use with the pendulum is included, making the outdoors even more ideal)! Have older kids? Head to girlstart for a more in-depth explanation of the science behind the pendulum.
New Knowledge about Newton
Speaking of those older kids - if you have one that wants to jump in even further with Sir Isaac, check out this free course on forces and Newton's Laws of Motion from Khan Academy. And because the ick factor always wins with kids - one question in the practice section involves the forces at play when you step on a cockroach!
Spinning and Swirling Eggs
We know eggs are in short supply, but if you happen to have some extras, try this planetary egg wobble activity to continue the exploration of inertia we began with pendulum painting! Best suited for grades 3 and up, you'll need a raw egg and a hard-boiled one. Without telling them which is which, have your kids gently spin them and then tap them mid spin (this is another one you might want to do outside lol!). Have fun hypothesizing as to why one stops and the other doesn't. As we're sure you can guess, it all has to do with Newton's Laws!
Take Ms. Dixon's slime container explosions from Snack Time Science to the next level by turning them into rockets! You'll need small canisters with lids like Ms. Dixon's, cardboard tubes, tape, water, and alka seltzer to make these awesome flying machines that embody Newton's Third Law of Motion (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction). The instructions for the basic experiment, as well as the rockets are at Steve Spangler Science; as above, there are tons of opportunities to hypothesize here (water amount and temperature will impact the distance traveled) so have fun and conduct lots of trials!
Girl Powered Guess Who!
Can't get your hands on social distancing's favorite board game Guess Who? Neither could we, but we found something even better - a version that focuses on influential women in history! The game is amazing, and you will learn so much. It's also a great way to connect with friends and family as it's super easy (and fun!) to play over FaceTime or Zoom. There is a small cost for the game ($5) and you'll need a printer, but it has been one of our absolute favorite recent finds!
Setting the STEM Record Straight
In honor of International Women's Day and the #MakeWhatsNext campaign in 2016, Microsoft made this incredibly empowering video that we use in our programs. Before you watch with your kids, ask them to name an inventor or engineer (you should too!). Then watch, and have an "a-ha" moment right along with the girls that are featured! Make sure to discuss why we all tend to name Benjamin Franklin, Nikolas Tesla, or Alexander Graham Bell when we're asked to think about scientists and engineers, and what we can do to change that. Take it a step further and have your kids research a female innovator and present her story.
Meet a Mentor
Research has shown that one of the most powerful tools for getting girls involved in STEM - and keeping them involved - is mentoring. While meeting a mentor in person isn't possible at the moment, there are several ways to do it virtually! The mission of She Can STEM is to share stories of contemporary female role models so girls can see themselves in the field; the online profiles emphasize how each woman got started on her STEM journey via the use of timelines and video interviews. It's a fantastic resource, as is The Ella Project, which similarly profiles women in STEM (hint hint: both these sites will also help immensely with the research activity suggested above). In a nod to these sites, have your kids start a timeline of their own big moments in their STEM journey!
Feeling motivated by everything you've learned above? You're not alone, and one of the best ways for kids to capture and capitalize on this inspiration is to start a journal! They can even use Dear Girl as a jumping-off point to create their own (see Rosie Girl Veronica read it here)! Each two-page spread offers words of advice or encouragement - have him/her write them down at the top of each page, and then explore it in writing. How can he/she act on these messages? How do these actions make the world a better place? If you want the journal to have a science spin, Andrea Beatty's beloved children's books (Rosie Revere, Ada Twist, and Iggy Peck) each have an accompanying Big Project Book to inspire and record scientific and engineering adventures. And if you're looking for older kids, the Girls Do STEAM journal was created "for girls by girls," includes STEAM challenges and inspirational examples of diverse women in STEAM, and donates proceeds to STEAM programs at high-need schools.
Learning from Landfill Layers
Understanding where our trash goes, and how it impacts our planet, is an important lesson for conservationists large and small. Explore the science of landfills by making one at home with this super cool project! This many-layered model is made of materials you'll likely have at home, and it's amazing what does (and does not) happen to the trash you include. For our younger friends, the children's book Here Comes the Garbage Barge is a great companion!
Every time we read I am Jane Goodall, we're more in awe of what Goodall has accomplished as a woman, scientist, and conservationist (read the book with us here!). And there are so many ways to learn more about her work and put her ideas into action! As we mentioned in Rosie Reads, young people can join Goodall's Roots and Shoots, a network of groups and online content that encourages kids to affect positive change in their communities. And for older kids, the National Geographic Museum of Washington D.C. recently released a virtual tour of it's blockbuster exhibition Becoming Jane. Jane Goodall herself is also launching Jane Goodall: Hopecast - a podcast focusing on her mission to make the world a better place for all - in the coming weeks!
Oil Spill Investigations
Investigate the impact of environmental disasters with this oil spill experiment. This a great one for our younger Rosie Girls as it provides plenty of opportunities to hypothesize, both in terms of the environmental consequences of oil spills, and the best methods for cleaning up and mitigating their impact. There are several suggestions for clean-up materials in the experiment itself, but give your kids full reign in choosing items and formulating tools to remedy the situation!
Bounce for Chemical Change
What kid can resist bouncy balls? Make them even more amazing by creating them at home using a chemical reaction! This Kiwi Co project is as simple as it is fun, and most of the materials are common household items. The only one that might be hard to get ahold of is Borax, a household cleaner that is currently available online at Target and Amazon.
Explore the chemistry of food by making cheese curds! We couldn't resist an experiment that you could eat, and this one works for all ages as it perfectly encapsulates "putting two things together to create something new" - our chemical reaction tagline from Snack Time Science! Be sure to remind your kids that virtually all cooking and baking involves chemical reactions, and prepare yourself for a whole army of scientific sous chefs!
Play with the Periodic Table
The periodic table, which records all the chemical elements, might seem daunting, but these games make it fun - we promise! Make a version of the all-time favorite Battleship with the periodic table (even younger ones can participate), play Element Hangman, or do a family game night with Periodic Table Bingo! We had a ton of fun playing and nerding out with these games, and know you will too!
Chemists use the pH scale to measure the strength of acids (substances that donate hydrogen ions) and bases (substances that accept hydrogen ions), and this food-based project uses cabbage juice to test various household substances like lemon juice and baking soda. Best for older kids, make sure you encourage them to hypothesize whether each substance is an acid or base before checking the pH printable, which is included!
Want to repeat the amazing rice bottle trick from Snack Time Science at home? Check out the full instructions here; all you need are dry, uncooked rice, an empty water bottle, and a dowel or similarly shaped solid object (a pencil, a single chopstick, etc.). And if your kids want to take it to the next level, let them stage a magic show where one bottle lifts up, and the other doesn't!
It's warming up outside, but simulate winter sports indoors with this fun project that tests different household objects (bottle caps, rocks, marbles, etc.) to determine what would make the best hockey puck. Friction obviously comes into play here - the object that moves the fastest will have the least amount of friction with your homemade "ice rink" - and be sure to have your kids make hypotheses about each "puck" before you test it!
If you've got older kids at home, this Scientific American experiment explores friction by launching stuff (literally!). Using a sling shot made from a rubber band, you'll send stacks of quarters flying across various floor surfaces - wood, carpet, tile - to determine which has more or less friction, and whether factors like an object's weight might play a part. Similar to the above, make sure you have your student scientists make hypotheses before doing any slinging!
This awesome project from Kiwi Co is a little more involved than we typically post as it recommends using a glue gun, but we just couldn't resist. The other materials - a CD, balloon, and pop-up cap (from a water or dish soap bottle) - are fairly straightforward and who doesn't want to build a hover craft?!? The lesson about friction and air is also pretty awesome.
Colorful Chemical Eggs
Dinosaurs are extinct, but this super fun project that creates dinosaur eggs (or really any kind of small figurine you can find) and "hatches" them via chemical reactions is anything but! Even better? You probably have all of the materials at home (vinegar, baking soda, food coloring, dish soap, and a few syringes). This one is so fun, we bet you'll be making them for a long time to come (we still are!).
Kids and Kindness
There can never be too much kindness in the world, and there are a ton of wonderful ways to keep the conversation going. Steve Hartman of CBS Evening News created "Kindness 101" to teach kids at home due to the COVID-10 crisis about the many facets of kindness. The utterly charming series features kids (Hartman's own and stories of kind children), and thus relates to them on an immediate and real level. It is the little bit of good we all need right now (adults be forewarned: have some tissues ready). Want some more ideas? Try a kindness jar (this neat version focuses on kindness at home) or this fun kindness game that presents scenarios and rewards making kind choices.
While hatching a dinosaur egg is fun for all ages, we've also got an experiment for older kids that focus on temperature change, which happens in every single chemical reaction! You'll need baking soda, vinegar, yeast, hydrogen peroxide and and a red liquid (alcohol) thermometer and a team of at least three (so those kindness lessons will come in handy here!) to chart and measure the temperature changes that occurred in conjunction with each reaction. In the end, this American Chemical Society experiment (fifth one down) will leave your kids with an understanding of exothermic and endothermic reactions!
"Eggs"-cellant Bouncy Balls
In case you missed it on Facebook and Instagram, we used a chemical reaction to transform an egg into a bouncy ball! Kiwi Co has the full list of instructions, and all you need are an egg and vinegar. As is typical in STEM, our first try didn't succeed (we got a few squishes before the ball exploded), but we're going to make a second attempt soon. Be sure to tag us when you make yours, and if your kids have any hypotheses in regard to why ours exploded